Monday, September 28, 2009

How Tyler ruined my laundry room floor....

I kept coming in and finding huge amounts of water on the laundry room floor, and thought that the waterer I had bought the cats must be leaking. After only a day, my linoleum started to warp and bubble; turns out there was a small cut in it under the dryer (presumably from the dryer feet) and the water got under it there. So now I may have to have my linoleum and subfloor replaced....all because of the @#$%*! kittens- because it turns out there WAS no leak, there was just mischief afoot. Remind me again why I wanted kittens?


WHHOOOOOODEEEEEEYYYY!!!!! A big whoodey to my Bengals for beating the Steelers at home yesterday. It's been a LONG time coming! The satisfaction I got from the looks on the Steelers faces is indescribable.

Here's a picture of one of my patients, Darla Sparks, that her owners brought me on Saturday. Darla is trying out for "linebarker" for the Bengals! Isn't she cute?

And here's Cory after the game with his Bengals bandana on . You can't see it with all the fur, but it says "Whodey" too. He is not allowed to wear it until AFTER the game because every time I put Bengals gear on my dogs it jinxes them. Cory has decided he is NOT a football fan; I do a lot of yelling and he's just not sure I might not be mad at HIM, so he spends most of the game in the bedroom. The bandana is not his personal favorite either.

Part two of our Smokies trip is on hold waiting for the pix from the agility photographer, so I thought we'd take time out for this little bit of gloating.

Now on to Cleveland!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Off to the Smokies part I

Last summer some of my "doggy friends" planned a fall vacation in the Smokey Mountains in North Carolina. Several of them went last year and had a great time; they rented several cabins, took the dogs, and had a great week of hiking and sightseeing. My friends Kathy and Sharon had rented a three bedroom cabin and were encouraging me to come along; initially I didn't think I could get away. However, after thinking about it a while I decided that I hadn't had a vacation in several years; even the three and four day show weekends that I used to go to once or twice a year I had skipped lately as Andy got older. So I decided we deserved it and called and told Sharon that, barring any disasters, I would come along. It was about 15 minutes later that my work computer started making a siren noise, and that was the beginning of the great computer crash of 2009; but despite THAT disaster I decided to go anyway and we got the system up and running again in time.

The rest of the crew left on Sunday morning; I planned to work Monday and Tuesday and drive down Tuesday night. We only are open a couple of hours on Wednesday anyway so that left me with only two full days of work that we were closed (we usually close one Saturday a month on average anyway) and I could have five days of vacation (well, driving back the afternoon of the fifth day). I actually got away about 10 minutes early and was on the road with an ETA in Bryson City NC of 11 PM. I made great time and got through the mountains north of Knoxville before dark. Around 9 PM I got off I-40 at the Sevierville exit to get dinner; my original plan had been to take 40 all the way down to 74 and then go back west to Bryson City; it was longer than going through Gatlinburg but I had been told the traffic on the more direct route would be terrible. It sure LOOKED shorter on the map though, so I went back inside Wendy's and asked the cashier. She told me there was construction along the route, but at that time of night it should be fine. So I headed down 441 and got my first glimpse of Pigeon Forge and Gatlingburg. Interesting. Pirate ships, castles, and upside down building that looked kind of like the Parthenon....I definitely wasn't bored. I didn't hit a red light all the way through Gatlinburg and was making great time when suddenly the road narrowed, the trees closed in, and I was, apparently, in the Smokey Mountain National Park. What the girl at Wendy's had failed to tell me was that the end of the route turned into a narrow, windy road that went right up and over the mountains at their highest point. A narrow and windy enough road that, at one point, I passed gates that said "road closed for winter"- open, of course, at that point. Yikes. It was pitch black and I couldn't see more than six feet off the side of the road...not that there WAS anything six feet off the side of the road because, near as I could tell, it was a sheer drop off. No cars ahead of or behind me, only the occasional car passing, and no cell phone service. But it WAS more interesting than highway driving and we had no particular schedule to keep, so what the heck. I kept driving, it kept getting blacker and blacker, and the road kept getting steeper. Eventually I was going in and out of either mist, or clouds, and my average speed was probably 30 mph at best. I passed Clingman's Dome which I learned later was the highest point in the park; and let me tell you, though I couldn't see, I KNEW it was high because my ears were popping the whole time. As I started the descent on the opposite side, I felt like I was landing a plane- we went in and out of the clouds, ears popping, and I could hear that same cushiony silence outside the car that you hear when a plane lands. Weird. I was a happy to exit the park and find myself in Cherokee, a mere stone's throw from Bryson City AND my cell phone worked again. We arrived at the cabins just outside of Bryson City, down another steep, windy road at 11:30 with only one wrong turn.

HOWEVER, as I was unloading the car I kept noticing a burnt smell and eventually I noticed that my passenger side rear tire was nearly flat. Great. I think when I had missed that turn and pulled into a graveled area to turn around I must have picked up a nail. Someone was watching out for me though because I made it all the way to my destination before it went flat- if it had happened in the park I would have been in serious trouble.

The next morning I got up early to check out the status of my tire. Cory was ecstatic to see his buddy Baylin, Sharon's welsh springer, and Kathy's three poodles. We headed out to the parking area in front of the cabins and the dogs ran and ran to their hearts content. It's good to be free! However, the news on the tire was not so good. It was now totally flat. Ooops. (did I mention I was driving my dad's car, as I didn't trust the van to make it through the mountains?).

We walked down the road a little ways and Cory's day kept getting better. There was a small clearing; it normally was inhabited by the old fire engine above (I'm not sure why; bet you thought it was my car with the flat tire, didn't you?!) and a little log cabin that actually was originally someone's home years ago. However, it now also included weave poles, jumps, a tunnel, and a contact trainer. Waahoo! We played a little agility for a few minutes; it wasn't hot but the HUMIDITY was incredible. Then we headed a little further down the road and over a bridge to the two cabins where the rest of our friends were staying. At that point, Cory REALLY couldn't believe it- this was like Disneyland! All told we had eight people and 15 dogs (5 shelties, 3 border collies, 3 poodles, 2 GSD, a Brittany, and a Welsh Springer) in three cabins. Quite a crew!.

After meeting up with the rest of the group, I headed back to our cabin to wait for AAA to change my tire (and to unload all the junk in the trunk so we could GET to the tire). The plan had been to go rafting that day; I was a little leery of how I would manage with my bad knees (especially getting in and out) so when AAA still hadn't arrived and it was time to go, I sent the rest of the group on and elected to relax at the cabin with Cory for the day.

Here's our cabin with a nice front porch along the front. And below is the creek that runs right in front- you could actually sit on the porch and fish, probably, if you wanted to. There is a fire pit between them and a little deck with a hot tub. The pictures aren't the best because our entire trip was very overcast alternating with pouring rain; because we were both down in a valley AND had trees totally blocking out most of the sky, the lighting was not very good for photos. And sadly, I didn't see a single bird the whole trip, though I did hear a pileated woodpecker several times. I would have thought the place would be teeming with birds. I'm sure if I'd left my binoculars at home it would have been.

Here's our porch which worked perfectly for a "buffer zone" before the house when the dogs were wet and muddy. Unfortunately, before the group left for the rafting trip we found out the gate did NOT latch securely. How did we find this? When we came back to the cabin Cory was a bit muddy and I left him on the porch to dry while I went in to put a sheet over the bedspread and get a book; I planned to sit on the porch with him and wait for AAA. When I came out less than 5 minutes Cory. I wasn't TOO worried as I figured he had just headed straight back up the road either to the agility field or to see who would play with him at the other cabins....but when I retraced our steps, everyone had gone inside and Cory was nowhere to be seen. I was getting a little panicky but I figured he MUST have followed me back in and gotten shut in the bedroom- he wasn't one to go running off in the woods, he would go looking for people. So back to the cabin for a quick search and still, no Cory. Ok, NOW I was panicked. He was dragging a six foot lead on a choke collar and if he had gone into the woods he was sure to get tangled and stuck. I started back down the road calling and calling and then, thank God, I heard him bark. A few minutes later I could see him coming down the road with Sharon. He had indeed, apparently, headed up to the other cabins but when no one was outside to play with him he just kept going up the road where, surely, someone ELSE he knew would be just around the corner- that seemed to be how things worked around here! He went back a private drive (frighteningly close to the main road and WAY farther from our cabin that I ever thought he would have gone) where he found the owner, a permanent resident, on his porch. The man told me later Cory gave him quite a start as he had owned three shelties and when he first looked up he thought it was his first dog who had been dead for years. He called him and Cory being Cory (he is NOT one of those shelties who would have to be caught with a live trap!) he launched himself straight at him wiggling and kissing. I think we were lucky he was willing to give him back! Trust Cory to find a sheltie person! We found a bungee cord to secure the gate for the rest of the week and headed back with a BIG sigh of relief!

"Gosh mom, I was just trying to be neighborly"!
On Thursday six of our group took a train ride on the Smokey Mountain Railroad. It was a good time; you could ride in the "indoor" cars or in the open cars, which we opted for as they had a much better view. The train went through the mountains, around Fontana Lake (which apparently is a manmade lake which was created when a dam was built; a number of people were apparently forced off their land and the land was flooded- remember the scene in "Oh Brother Where Art Thou"?). We ended up parallelling the river where the rafting expedition had occurred the day before- the Tuckaseegee I think (although I couldn't quite understand the train conductor and in my head I kept calling it the Suckapeepee!). When we got to the end of the line, we dropped off a group who were rafting that day, then the train made a stop at the outfitters store where there was a restaurant. Most people got off to eat there, but we decided to be different (as well as lazy and safe, as it kept raining off and on and it was quite a walk down the tracks to the store). We ate in the train's dining car. I was quite disappointed when I wanted to reinact the scene from "White Christmas" and NO ONE else had seen it- for crying out loud, I'm the youngest one there! It was interesting although the food was pretty mediocre.

Our group- Sharon, Maryann S, Kathy, Maryann C, and Erica.

This looks like a shot the Brady Bunch would have done!

This cabin was built in 1866 by five brothers who all served in the civil war; only one came home. (although in thinking about it, the timing seems suspect to me- didn't the civil war start in 1863? If they were all serving who had time to build a house? At any rate, it made a good story).

Views of Fontana Lake. I was really disappointed in my photo ops this trip; the lighting was terrible generally and my technical abilities to capture the mist and cloud formations were nonexistant. I need to take a photography class!

This is why they call them the Smokies!

Rafters on the Tuckaseegee. Or Suckapeepee. Or whatever.

Sharon made a new friend at the model train mueseum after the trip. I'm not sure his intentions are honorable, though
Stay tuned for part two, our last half of the trip spent at the Blue Ridge Agility Club trials. And keep Erica's sister Chris in your thoughts and prayers. She was to have gone on the trip with us, but has gotten some tough health news that kept her home.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pony Penning...realizing a childhood dream Part 2

So...we arrived on Chincoteague in the early morning and found the tiny island absolutely packed with cars and tourists. We had arranged to park at the local high school and take a bus to the site of the pony swim. So, armed with bugspray and cool drinks we arrived at Memorial Park just across the channel from Assateague. We had considered the possibility of watching the swim from a boat, but the boats involved were mostly small fishing type boats, the wait could be half a day long, and our bladders were not up to the we opted to watch from the shore.

After what seemed like hours (and actually WAS several hours) finally a cry went up and we could see the pony herd in the distance approaching the channel.

If you look closely, you can see tiny figures in the pictures that are horses. These shots were taken with a 300 mm zoom lens. Your view here is actually MUCH better than our view from the had to use your imagination quite a bit.

See, those are ponies heads in the water swimming the channel. Somehow I had pictured a more intimate experience....

Once the ponies emerged on the Chincoteague side of the channel, they were driven through town to the fairgrounds where they were corralled to wait for the auction of the colts the following day. The first foal out of the water was raffled off; I of course bought a ticket and then found myself wondering what in the world I would do if I won. Wouldn't the ultimate irony just be to win a pony FINALLY, then have to think like an adult and realize I had nowhere to keep a pony, no time to spend with one, and was way to big to ride one! Thankfully I didn't win and wasn't faced with any tough decisions.

Here are some of the foals in the paddock; it actually started to rain around the time that they reached the fairgrounds and the whole area was generally hot, steaming and muddy. We didn't spend a ton of time at the fairgrounds as it seemed kind of anticlimactic.

All in all, the pony penning and swim was the least interesting part of the trip but I'm really glad I went. It definitely brought me back to my childhood and was something I'm so glad I got to do. I spent so many hours dreaming about going as a kid, I just couldn't pass the opportunity by! Next time, I would stay at the Maryland end of the island and spend more time there and get in some birdwatching (although I would like to see the Misty Museum, although I don't think the stuffed Misty is still there-not sure I need to see that!).

So mark one thing off of my list of "things I want to do before I die"!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pony Penning...realizing a childhood dream Part 1

I confess...I was a horse crazy child. I also always had my nose stuck in a book. So it is no surprise that one of my absolute favorite books as a child was the classic Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. If you have a kid who loves animals, or loves to read, and they haven't read this book, shame on you! They need a copy yesterday. (if I hadn't been a veterinarian I probably should have been a children's librarian...I love children's books!). I actually had two copies, the hardcover "good" copy that I kept in good condition, complete with full color, beautiful paintings by the great Wesley Dennis; and my paperback copy which was very "well loved" (read tattered) and probably survived at least several dozen readings. I of course had all the other Misty books as well. One vivid memory from my childhood was taking my Christmas money to the after Christmas sales downtown at Shillitos (subsequently Lazarus and now Macy's) to their book department and buying "A Pictorial Life Story of Misty" which was a beautiful, full color, hardcover book with pictures of Misty and her babies that told the true story of her life. Of course, I couldn't wait to start reading it so I pleaded a need for a bathroom break while my parents continued shopping and locked myself in a stall to browse through my new treasure. I opened it near the end and the first picture I saw was a picture of Misty...STUFFED in a museum in Chincoteague! I was absolutely devastated- Misty was DEAD! I remember sitting in the bathroom crying my eyes out.

Every year, along with multiple wish lists that started "a horse" for every Christmas and birthday, I lobbied hard for our summer vacation to be to Chincoteague for Pony Penning. My parents, killjoys that they were, preferred to sit on the beach in Florida. No doubt this had a lot to do with them NOT auctioning off ponies at the Florida beaches so they didn't have to listen to me whining. One summer I even saved all the clippings when I mowed the lawn, stowed them in giant trash bags, and lugged them back behind the garden shed over the hill way at the back of the yard near the woods. My plan was to convince my parents to go to Pony Penning, WIN the colt that was raffled off so they would have no excuse not to let me keep it, and have it live in the shed and eat the leftover grass clippings- after all, when my parents started objecting on the basis of feed bills I reasoned it would be good to have that base covered already. This little project came crashing to a halt when my mother discovered that she had no trash bags left and coerced the truth out of me. Do you know how bad grass clippings in trash bags smell after a few weeks in the summer sun? Somehow they were not impressed with my industriousness. So no pony, and no pony penning for my whole childhood. Sniff.

A few years ago, at our Tuesday night potluck and agility practice, we got on the subject of Pony Penning. As I mentioned in another post, my friend MaryAnn owns the farm at which we practice, which is actually a good sized boarding stable. She also until last year when she retired owned the coolest tack store in the area (the Tack Trunk in Lebanon, if you need horse supplies or a REALLY good selection of horsey oriented gifts) and was at one time very involved with eventing and riding (until she started spending more time showing her dogs). We started talking about how we had always dreamed of seeing Pony Penning and had never gotten there. "Well", said MaryAnn, "Why don't we just go?". Wow. I had never actually thought of that. I guess we WERE grownups and there was nothing stopping us. So ok! We planned our trip- not an easy task when you are a solo veterinarian; getting away for a full week in the height of summer is definitely a challenge and a rare pleasure, but I was determined- I owed it to my childhood self.

Of course, having graduated from horse crazy kid to certifiably dog show addicted adult, we couldn't take a whole week's vacation and not include a show! So we planned to drive to Maryland; show at an agility trial over the weekend, then go to Dewey Beach in Delaware where MaryAnn had a relative who was willing to let us use their condo and the dogs were allowed on the beach. From there, we would drive down to Chincoteague for the day to see Pony Penning, as well as visiting the northern end of the Island in Maryland and seeing the wild ponies on the beach there. One of MaryAnn's employees from the tack shop, Gidget, would meet us in Delaware with her little terrier Jasper and enjoy the beach and pony penning with us.

I picked MaryAnn up at her place in my van and we managed to fit all our stuff, three of her shelties, and my Andy all in (this was the summer when I had just lost Levi and before I had Cory). Of course, being somewhat of a sentimental fool, I HAD to bring along my Breyer model of Misty that my grandmother had given me for Christmas somewhere around third grade. How could I finally make it to Chincoteague and leave her behind? She was getting pretty elderly and had survived some of my earlier surgical attempts to repair her broken legs (those of you who collected Breyers as children know that when you make them "gallop" and clunk their feet on the floor, those hooves tend to snap off...luckily Misty's rehab had been mostly successful!). So I got some of those gummy dots you use to stick pictures in scrapbooks and we put them on the bottoms of Misty's hooves and stuck her to the dashboard as our mascot for the trip. Of course I also brought all my Misty books AND my three (THREE!) personally signed and written notes from Marguerite Henry who had answered my fan mail when I was a child. Yes, I was a weird kid. And apparently a somewhat abnormal adult since I still had all this stuff.

Above is a picture of Andy and his harem poolside at the condo in Delaware. We had a great weekend at the agility trials in Maryland and then headed for Dewey Beach. The dogs were able to be on the beach in the mornings and the evenings and they enjoyed it immensely. Andy was not crazy about getting wet, but he took the job of chasing the waves back out into the ocean very seriously. It was very hard work- no sooner did you chase them out and come back for a breather than here they came in again! Once in a while he would get caught and be up to his shoulders in water much to his disgust. The best part about the beach though was that you could bark to your heart's content and no one cared because it was drowned out by the crashing of the waves.

But back to Pony Penning...for those of you who did not have the pleasure of growing up with Misty stories I will recap briefly for you. Years ago, legend has it that a Spanish galleon transporting ponies to work in the mines went off course and was shipwrecked off the coast of Virginia. The ponies swam ashore on Assateague, one of the barrier islands and remained wild there for generations. Assateague is now a wildlife preserve, while the adjacent island, Chincoteague, is inhabited by humans many of whom make their living in the oyster industry. Every year in July, the volunteer firemen round up the ponies, swim them across the channel from Assateague to Chincoteague, and drive them through the streets of town to the fairgrounds. A weeklong festival culminates in the swim and the colts are auctioned off with the proceeds going to the volunteer fire department. This helps to keep the population under control. The northern end of Assateague is part of the state of Maryland, not Virginia, and has its own population of pony herds which are not included in the roundup.

So Maryann, Gidget and I set out for Chincoteague leaving the dogs behind at the condo for the day. We stopped for lunch on the way and found a great chicken restaurant with an outdoor patio complete with gliders with canopies and swamp misters. We could have sat there all day, but we had ponies to see!

Of course, we had a little fun with the name of the restaurant as well!

So first stop was the Assateague wildlife preserve on the north end of the island in Maryland. We should have allocated more time to spend here as it was absolutely beautiful. The campgrounds were right on the beach and the ponies wandered through the campsites. There were signs all over asking you not to pet or interfere with the ponies, but they didn't give you too much choice- they were quite tame and we found them in several instances standing around watching campers cook and looking for handouts.

As you can see, the pony wasn't at all bothered by Gidget's presence, except that she didn't bring him anything to eat. The wildlife preserve was beautiful; if we had had more time we could have rented a canoe and gone out in the bay, which was quite shallow; there were tons of shorebirds to see as well. If I ever go back I think I will plan to spend most of the trip here.

But pony penning was calling and we were back in the car and off to Chincoteague which was absolutely jam packed with cars and tourists in town for the festivities.
To be continued...